Ah, the grilled cheese sandwich. It’s a classic food that has a history with everyone. For me, a grilled cheese is one of the first things my grandma taught me to cook. I remember melting butter in a heavy skillet on our old electric stove and impatiently flipping my cheese sandwich over and over again until it was golden brown. My grandma told me I needed to have patience when cooking, because everything good comes in time. She made the best grilled cheese sandwiches. Two slices of white bread, two slices of American cheese, a lot of Miracle Whip and I was a happy little girl.
Nowadays, making a grilled cheese has become an art. There are entire restaurant concepts dedicated to the melty sandwich like Ms. Cheezious in Miami, Roxy’s Grilled Cheese in Boston, and The Grilled Cheese Grill in Portland. They see the grilled cheese more like a formula than a recipe, which allows for a lot of creativity. The formula for the perfect grilled cheese consists of a basic structural form and some steps to ensure that it’s perfectly crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle. But other than that, you can make it however you want.
This got me thinking, what’s the most important part of a grilled cheese? Surprisingly, I don’t think it’s the cheese. When I think of this classic sandwich I picture brown and toasty bread. I mean, without the bread there’d be no transporting that ooey-gooey cheese to your mouth. Good bread is the foundation to an awesome grilled cheese. Sliced bread is your best bet. It doesn’t matter if it’s white, whole wheat or pumpernickel. Choose whatever you like best. Just make sure it’s not too thick or else the cheese won’t melt, and make sure there aren’t a lot of air bubbles because the cheese will drip out.
Now, let’s talk cheese. The most important thing when choosing a cheese is how melty it is. When making a grilled cheese you’ll want to stay away from dry, crumbly, hard, and over-aged cheeses, because they require higher temperatures to melt and do not melt evenly. This includes parmesan, feta, and goat cheese. Try to choose a higher moisture content cheese because it will melt easier. You can’t go wrong with Cheddar, American, Swiss, Mozzarella, Fontina, Gruyere, or Brie. Oh, and if you do like those harder to melt cheeses just combine a little with an easy to melt cheese, and voila!
Once you’ve picked the perfect bread and cheese combination, you’ve gotta get the cooking technique down. This can be hard, since your bread might toast faster than your cheese melts. That’s why it’s important to be patient and cook your sandwich over medium-low heat. Trying to speed the cooking process up will only result in burnt crust. Melt some butter in a skillet and cook your sandwich over medium-low heat, making sure to toast both sides evenly. You might find it helpful to apply light pressure and stir the sandwich around. When it has reached a deep brown color, it’s done!
So, those are the basic things needed to complete the grilled cheese formula. Now that you’ve got the bread, cheese, and cooking part down, add anything else you’d like. Just make sure the cheese stays the starring role. All added ingredients should work to complement the cheese, not overpower it (otherwise it’s just a toasted sandwich with cheese). I like to add veggies like avocado, spinach, tomato, and grilled onion. If I feel like I need a more filling meal, I’ll add a little turkey or ham.
Check out some of these creative recipes for a new-aged grilled cheese sandwich.
Balsamic Blueberry Grilled Cheese (Amanda K by the Bay), Caprese-Style Grilled Cheese, Bacon Jam and Avocado Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Closest Cooking), Sweet & Spicy Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Express-O), Baked Potato Grilled Cheese (BS’ in the Kitchen), Lasagna Grilled Cheese (Joy the Baker)
Avocado & Goat Cheese Grilled Cheese (Rachel Schultz), Spicy Apple Cheddar Grilled Cheese (She Wear Many Hats), The Ultimate Grilled Cheese, Grilled Cheese with Gouda, Roasted Mushrooms and Onions (Two Peas & Their Pod), Hawaiian Grilled Cheese (Dairy4Cook), Parmesan Crusted Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Two Peas & Their Pod)
I bet all this got you thinking about making a scrumptious grilled cheese sandwich, so I’m wondering…
What will you add to your next grilled cheese?